Business for fine and custom chemical makers gathered momentum during 2012, while specialty chemical companies hit a few bumps along the road.
As the year got under way, the custom chemical industry saw signs that business was improving, though one industry executive lamented that the slow recovery created a “self-perpetuating hesitance.” Western pharmaceutical chemical manufacturers were upbeat about the return of some business lost to China and India.
At the Chemspec Europe exhibition in Barcelona in June, attendees reported generally good agricultural chemical prospects, but they noted that pharmaceutical chemical markets were under pressure as a result of fewer drug approvals and cost cutting in health care. By October, attendees at CPhI Worldwide, a pharmaceutical ingredients conference held in Madrid, were looking to continued growth in 2013.
A few notable disasters compromised specialty chemical supply chains. An explosion and fire in March killed two workers at an Evonik Industries chemical plant in Marl, Germany. The incident caused shortages of cyclododecatriene, a raw material for nylon 12, a polymer used in automotive fuel and brake lines. After repairs, Evonik restarted the plant in December.
Worldwide shortages of superabsorbent acrylic polymers (SAPs) used in disposable diapers were expected to last for months after the Sept. 29 explosion and fire in an acrylic acid tank at Nippon Shokubai’s SAP plant in Japan. Shokubai’s facility accounts for 20% of the world’s supply of the material, which is also made by BASF, Evonik Industries, and Sumitomo Seika.